An Unexpected Win for the Climate at Tokyo Olympics

2020 was no ordinary year. All rituals and traditions were upended to accommodate safety requirements, even during the biggest celebration of sports- The Olympics. The games, scheduled to be hosted in Tokyo, were delayed by a year and the number of spectators and supporting staff was kept to a minimum.

While much has been spoken about the empty stands at the games and how that diluted the spirit of the highly anticipated event, it's important to acknowledge its unexpected positive impact on the environment. To scientifically evaluate the true impact, tourism researcher James Higham of the University of Otago in New Zealand calculated the estimated carbon emissions cut resulting from a reduced number of attendees  including judges, referees, media, sponsors and other representatives. The results from the study were announced recently.

Environmental Impact of Tokyo Olympics

Based on temporary visitor visa data, the research estimated that with the pandemic restrictions, the number of attendees went down from the estimated 141,000, to just  30,000. The research also found that nearly 129,686 tons of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided due to minimal air travel for the games, amounting to a reduction of nearly 80 percent carbon emissions.

Evaluating the Learnings From Tokyo Olympics

Although the steps taken by the Tokyo Olympics were not intentional, it was a clear demonstration of how we can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of events with a strong commitment and strategy for bold climate action. As the climate crisis becomes more dire, international events need to get serious about minimizing their carbon impact. Reducing unnecessary personnel can be a starting point, potentially by sourcing local referees and judges for events and using augmented and virtual reality to allow judges to assess performances virtually.

While the Tokyo Olympics is a great case study, we cannot keep people out of the stadiums. Events are a great opportunity for communities to come together. The economic impact of empty stadiums is also considerably large. Host cities rely on the revenues from tickets bought by the spectators and tourism opportunities created by the events. The events also make way for additional revenue generating activities and cultural exchanges between tourists, teams and local communities at local fairs, festivals and concerts.

How Offsetting Can Help Events Meet Their Net-Zero Goals

Like most other industries, audiences, investors and authorities are demanding urgent climate action from event organizers and environmental stewardship has become necessary to build a successful brand. Most leading organizing committees and federations have made public commitments to reduce their own greenhouse-gas emissions completely, over the next 5-10 years. Yet at many events, especially the ones that require long-distance travel , organizers find that they cannot fully eliminate their emissions, or even lessen them as quickly as they would like. In addition to the impact of attendee travel by planes and cars, large-scale events also have to manage emissions associated with hotel stays, catering, electricity, ground transportation, and more.

This is where offsetting comes to the rescue. Events with net-zero ambitions can offset emissions they can’t get rid of by other means by using credible carbon credits from various climate saving projects across the world. Carbon credits can also present an opportunity to the attendees to offset their personal carbon footprint by investing in specific projects they care about.

The future of carbon-neutral events is inevitable. A small start now can result in substantial impact. To know more about carbon neutral events or to get started on your journey to decarbonization, get in touch with our experts today.